Cardamom is a spice that belongs to the same family as ginger. It is highly aromatic when fresh and extremely versatile. It shows up in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine as well as in Scandinavian and North American desserts. It can be made into a tea or chewed as a breath freshener. However, you should understand a few rules if you want to get the most from this spice. Take a look at the cardamom dos and don’ts that we have listed below.
Do learn the difference between green and black cardamom.
Green cardamom is probably what you want in the vast majority of dishes that require cardamom, even if the type of cardamom is not mentioned. Green cardamom is used in many more dishes than the black variety, which is used mostly in savory dishes. Green cardamom shows up regularly in both sweet and savory dishes. While they are related, both types of cardamom have different appearances and flavors.
Do grind your own cardamom.
The reason that whole cardamom is better than ground has to do with how quickly the ground spice loses its flavor. While whole cardamom can also lose its flavor, it has a much longer shelf life and is more likely to have its characteristic pungency when you grind just before using it. Cardamom is also one of the three most expensive spices, which means that you should use it carefully to avoid wasting your money. Grind only the amount that you will need for your dish.
When grinding your own cardamom, it is best to use a mortar and pestle rather than an electric spice grinder if the only spice you are grinding is cardamom. The reason is that you will usually only need to grind a few seeds. In a typical spice grinder, the blades will not get any traction so the seeds will just spin around in the grinder instead of being ground to powder. If you are grinding other whole spices along with the cardamom, you may get better results.
Do use ground cardamom if you rarely use the spice and don’t need much of it.
It may make sense to avoid the hassle of grinding the spice if you are only going to use a very small amount. Buy only the amount that you need and use all of it. Note that if it is not extremely fragrant when you open the container, it is probably on its way to being stale.
Do use whole cardamom without removing the seeds and without grinding it IF…
…you need a subtler cardamom flavor. In India and the Middle East, whole cardamom is often used in pilafs and similar dishes.
Do use a pestle or a garlic press to crack open the pods.
Both of these tools make it easy to crack the pods and remove the seeds.
Don’t use cardamom in excess.
Cardamom is a delightfully aromatic spice, so much so that you may be deceived into thinking that more of it will automatically be better. Too much fresh cardamom will overwhelm other spices and may even leave your dish tasting bitter. You may also find yourself using too much if the spice is not so fresh; using more can seem like a good way to compensate for the loss of flavor. This can be a problem as well since it may give the food a chalky texture.